Merchants, Retailers Employ Revolving Door Lobbyists In Regulatory Fight


Merchants, retailers, and their trade associations have arrayed a team of former government officials turned lobbyists in one of 2011’s biggest lobbying battles as banks and credit unions seek to overturn part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. According to data compiled from the Senate Office of Public Records and the Center for Responsive Politics, merchants and retailers lobbying in support of debit interchange fees rules employed 124 lobbyists with previous government experience.

The Federal Reserve has proposed rules to set limits on the amount that banks can charge retailers every time a customer uses a debit card for a purchase, known as debit interchange fees. These fees, set by electronic networks, including VISA and MasterCard, provide big profits to banks and diminish returns for retailers, often leading to rising prices for consumers.

Retailers lobbied hard to get a limit on interchange fees included in the Dodd-Frank bill and succeeded when retail ally Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., offered an amendment, which was adopted, to the bill requiring the Federal Reserve to write rules governing the fees. The Fed released their rule earlier this year. Much to the dismay of banks and electronic network operators the Fed rules capped interchange fees at 12 cents per swipe, or a more than 70 percent reduction in fees.

Banks and their allies–payment networks and credit unions–have swamped Capitol Hill with lobbyists and the retailers and merchants, including Wal-Mart, have done the same.

Major members of the Electronic Payments Coalition, the chief organizing vehicle for the banks opposed to the fee rules, have hired 118 former government officials to lobby and made at least $500,000 in political action committee (PAC) contributions to members of Congress.

Retailers and merchants have largely organized through the Merchant’s Payments Coalition. Organizations listed as members of the Merchant’s Payments Coalition, all of whom are trade associations, accounted for half of the 124 revolving door lobbyists hired by retailers and merchants. The other half come from supporting companies including Wal-Mart, Home Depot, 7-11, and Best Buy.

Below you’ll find a table listing all the revolving door lobbyists affiliated with the retailers and merchants. These are all lobbyists who were specifically listed as lobbying on debit interchange fee rules on their lobbying disclosure forms for 2010 or 2011. Revolving door lobbyists affiliated with the Electronic Payments Coalition can be found here.